Co-parenting is challenging enough for divorced parents and their children. Add COVID-19 to the mix and everyone gets even more stressed out. The deadly virus has changed our lives for at least the past month. People are forced to shelter in place. Many businesses have shut down, which means that many parents have lost their jobs. On top of that, schools have closed across the country. These factors have made parenting much more difficult.
Parents are conflicted. Some have to continue to work. Some work from home. How can you successfully co-parent at a time when everyone is supposed to be social distancing?
The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented event that is going to require some compromise and leniency from parents. There are no set rules in place that govern what parents are supposed to do. There is nothing that says that custody agreements are supposed to change. Co-parenting in this day and age will not be easy. You may already have issues with the other parent, but you are going to have to put those aside for now and focus on the health and welfare of your children.
Communication is key for all involved. You are going to have to communicate with the other parent. You are also going to have to communicate with your children. This will result in less stress for all involved and keep conflicts to a minimum. Here are some other guidelines to follow as you navigate the coronavirus pandemic with your children and ex-spouse.
Model Healthy Habits
Do not just tell your kids what to do; show them what to do to stay healthy. Follow all local, state and federal guidelines. If you are asked to shelter in place, do so. Wash your hands often. Use hand sanitizer. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Wipe down and disinfect surfaces. If you must go out in public, stay at least six feet away from others and wear a mask.
We have never been through a situation like the coronavirus pandemic before, so it is understandable that you are likely to be a little anxious. However, do not be constantly freaking out and on-edge around the children. That will only make them more scared. Instead, be calm and think positive thoughts. Let your children know that what we are experiencing is only temporary and that life will return to normal eventually. Avoid watching the news too much or spending too much time on social media, as that can make your fear intensify.
Be Compliant but Creative
When it comes to child custody, you should still be following the rules of your agreement as much as possible. However, you may also need to get creative to stay compliant with your area’s rules as well as keep your children safe and healthy. For example, if you are a healthcare worker, you may want the other parent to have primary custody for the time being so you do not infect your children. You can continue to stay in touch via Facetime, texts and emails. You and the other parent can then come up with a plan for you to spend more time with the kids later on, when the pandemic is over.
Be Upfront and Honest
Now is not the time to withhold any information. Everyone’s safety is of utmost importance, so that means that there should be no secrets. If you have COVID-19 or think you are experiencing symptoms, be proactive and get tested. Self-quarantine and get the medical care you need. If the children test positive for coronavirus, be sure to let the other parent know right away. Do not hide such important information.
Keep in mind that everyone is suffering hardships during this time. Many cannot work or earn money. Grocery shelves are bare as people hoard food and other essentials. Children cannot go to school. People cannot socialize or engage in their favorite activities like they used to. Therefore, you need to be understanding of your ex-spouse’s situation. He or she may not be able to pay child support if they have lost their job. While this is not the ideal situation, try to be accommodating. Likewise, if you are the paying spouse, you should try to contribute what you can. Even a little bit of money is better than nothing. Both parents should be focusing on the best interests of the children.
Get Changes in Writing
If you and the other parent agree to changes to child custody outside of court, be sure to get them in writing. This is especially important if you think the other parent will try to take advantage of you. Make sure any changes are clearly outlined. Also, make sure there is an end date so there is no confusion. You can have an attorney look over the amended document now and have all parties sign it so it is ready to file once the courts open back up.
Seek Legal Help
It can be challenging to co-parent during these uncertain times. You are likely concerned about the health and welfare of your children, especially when they are with the other parent.
Have questions or concerns about co-parenting? Get help from Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler. He has more than 30 years of experience helping Florida couples divorce with ease. He knows the laws and can give you solid advice. Schedule a consultation by calling our office at (954) 346-6464.